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Questions from our readers

Hey, it's Spencer, owner of Spencer Studios which is a recording Studio in Lancaster, Pa. I am taking a moment to answer a few questions from our readers.

Why are open-backed headphones better for music listening?

Sound as as we hear it is essentially a pattern of vibrations known as oscillations that occur through air. To create recreate these vibrations headphones use some sort of diaphragm to vibrate and recreate the same frequency (pitch) and amplitude (volume) as the recorded sound. Headphones that are open back allow equally low pressure to occur on both sides of this diaphragm where closed back headphones can cause a pressure build up making it harder for the diaphragm to move which leads to distortion.

Is it possible to have headphones that are good for both studio use, and audiophile listening?

Yes, certainly. The goal of audiophile equipment is to recreate music as accurately as possible. In the studio we also share that goal so we can tell exactly what changes need to be made to the music. I often use the same open back headphones in my studio that I use at home for listening. There are a few notable issues though. Open back headphones do not provide any noise isolation. If you are recording something and the microphone is in the same room you will create a feedback loop. If you are listening at home or on the subway due to the open back nature of open back headphones none of the external noise will be blocked out. In any scenario where you need noise isolation you will have to sacrifice slightly and choose a closed back headphone or in-ear. Most studios have closed back headphones in their live rooms and recording booths but use open back headphones in their engineering spaces.

Why are expensive headphones worth it?

The goal is to accurately recreate the music. Things like micro-electronics and modern technology come at a cost. Once you cross over into the realm of reference headphones every step closer to a truly flat frequency response (see my article below) comes at the cost of research and development. True reference grade headphones can make you feel like you are an audience of one in your own concert and reveal nuances in the music you never know existed. If this thought excites you than high quality, often moderately more expensive hifi headphones might be right for you.

Is there a path forward to restructuring streaming splits?

NO, the current system is broken and does not favor artists like records and CDs once did. If streaming platforms have to pay artists more they would have to charge consumers more and to an extent that a consumer would not want to pay and as a result the system would fail. The only thing streaming services are good for is as a source of advertising that makes consumers want to see an artist in concert leading to actual profit for the artist. I do not see streaming services continue to exist a decade from now at least not in the capacity they currently do. More and more artists are going to start requiring purchase of their albums as an NFT so they can actually make money selling their music. You may start to see additional fees for certain songs like you did in the later days of itunes before it became apple music. One thing is clear is that the current model is not sustainable because it disadvantages the very people who are creating the music.

Is touring a viable means of consistent income generation?

YES! Touring in spite of common belief is the main means of income generation, not streaming, merchandise or other sales for artists. That being said one can not simply go out and tour. Before a successful tour you have to either have a fan base that is willing to come out and pay to see specifically you or you need to gig at places that have built in audiences expecting certain genres such as clubs, festivals and reoccurring small venues. When gigging at these alternative venues the artist has to be impactful and business savvy enough to make sure they are paid a fair rate.

What wins could strategic organizing with SAG-AFTRA reap

As a child did you ever build a sand castle at the beach right when the tide was coming in? No matter how hard you tried the waves relentlessly knocked down your walls even when you built them back up again until your whole castle was underwater. SAG-AFTRA can't help fix a broken system and they can't negotiate with an idea. We need a completely new system and it has already begun in the form of NFTs in the form of digital albums. An NFT is where an artist makes the most money and realize it or not artists are the ones with the power. Record labels have been and continue to be on the decline. More and more artists are releasing exclusive NFT albums and new artists are going to see that and want the same rather than make essentially no money from streams.

Spencer Miles Spencer Studios

313 W Liberty St, Lancaster, PA 17603


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